IT Career Guide: Advice for IT Professionals

The low-down on IT careers, from what it's like to work in IT, to the hottest types of IT jobs and the skills and certifications you'll need to land them. From hiring and salary data to expert advice, CIO.com's complete IT career guide helps you succeed.

Is an IT career a good idea right now?

Depending upon whom you ask, it's both the best of times and the worst of times to pursue or maintain an IT career. The IT industry and corporate IT departments are undergoing dramatic changes due to the influence of social media and consumer technology, the recession and technological innovations such as cloud computing. The changes taking place in the industry and in corporate IT departments are, consequently, impacting the market for IT jobs, the skills needed to be successful in them, and IT salaries.

Those IT professionals who view their profession as a dead end cite the never-ending cycle of layoffs inside technology companies and corporate IT departments, offshoring, and corporations' use of H-1B visa holders as "cheap" sources of high-tech labor as reasons to pursue new careers or caution young people against IT careers. They're also fed up with the lack of appreciation the business shows to IT, the absence of work life balance that an IT career often demands, and downward pressure on their salaries.

On the other hand, the IT professionals who are optimistic about IT careers say that despite the challenges posed by the economy, globalization, offshoring and technological change, it's an exciting time to be in IT. They believe that the IT jobs and IT careers of today and of the near future will make IT professionals more well-rounded employees and will better prepare them for careers in other business functions: As the structure of corporate IT departments change in response to cloud computing and as more technology gets pushed out to the business (as opposed to residing under the direct control of corporate IT), IT professionals will have more opportunity to rotate through positions in other business units.

Another reason why now is a good time to work in IT: Despite all the layoffs and outsourcing, some IT jobs seem to be getting more stable, and for some employers, the trend seems to moving away from short tenures to long tenures. Big, progressive companies want IT workers who'll be with the organization for the long haul, because their knowledge of the company's IT architecture will be so critical and hard to replace. Says State Street CIO Chris Perretta in the Computerworld article There's More to an IT Career than Technology: "With the growing importance of architecture, companies realize how valuable highly tenured people are. We're desperately looking for ways to attract people who are talented and want to stay for the long term. When we hire someone, we really want to hire them with the mind-set of belonging to the organization."

People who wish to pursue IT careers now and in the future must be flexible and open to change. Members of Gen Y are in a particularly good position to move into IT careers, because they're so familiar with the consumer technologies currently flooding enterprises.

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